Women: Good News About the Gender Pay Gap (and Some Bad)

New research reveals that new female college graduates earn as much as, or more than, men in 29 of 73 majors. The bad news is what happens later.

When it comes to the well-publicized gender pay gap, there’s good news and there’s bad.

Many young female college graduates (ages 22 to 27) are earning as much or more than their male counterparts during their first years in the workforce, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Now here’s the bad: the wage advantage, or wage equality, many young women enjoy at the start of their career not only disappears by midcareer, the pay gap widens in favor of men, with male workers earning substantially more across the board, the Federal Reserve study showed.

On average in 2014, a full-time female employee earned just 82.5 cents to every dollar a male was paid. But this latest research shows that the pay gap is largely dependent on a woman’s age and college major.

Using data from 2009 through 2013, two researchers in the New York Fed’s Research and Statistics Group found that the early-career pay gap varies widely depending on major.

“According to our estimates, newly minted female college graduates earn as much as, or more than, men in 29 of the 73 majors,” the researchers said.

The pay gap most favors women who major in:

  • Social services: 16 percent
  • Treatment therapy: 11 percent
  • Industrial engineering: 10 percent
  • Art history: 9 percent
  • Aerospace engineering: 8 percent
  • Construction services: 8 percent
  • Business analytics: 7 percent
  • Mechanical engineering: 4 percent

Although the reasons for the changing pay gaps aren’t clear, the researchers suggested they could result from discrimination or career interruptions when women bear and raise children.

Because raising a family often requires more flexible schedules, those with family responsibilities who have difficulty satisfying time sensitive work demands may face lower wages in these types of jobs. In fact, in jobs where such time demands are largely absent, and more flexibility is possible, the pay gap has been found to be much smaller.

Check out “The States With the Widest Gender Pay Gaps.” Women may also want to avoid the “10 Jobs With the Biggest Pay Gap Between Men and Women.”

Are you surprised by these findings? Share your thoughts in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

Stacy Johnson

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